From Mark 6-7
The conflict in Mark 7 revolves around the issue of defilement. Jesus teaches what truly makes a person unclean, then shows that he is the person who makes people clean. Have you been washed by Jesus’ blood?
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
The Pharisees and the Scribes criticised Jesus because his disciples were not observing the traditions of the Jewish elders by washing their dirty hands before eating. The issue gives Jesus opportunity to argue man made traditions should not be allowed to overrule God’s commands and importantly for today’s passage what truly makes people unclean.
What defiles a person? What makes us unclean and unacceptable before God? Dirty hands or something more significant?
14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable.
18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.) (Mk 7.14–19)
‘Defile him’. The law of Moses regarded uncleanness as something transferable to persons, vessels, clothes, and even houses by touch, lying, sitting, or by an overhang. Layers of impurity could be removed by washings. Consequently the Jews were quite mindful of their surroundings, what they touched and what they should do if they became unclean. They should wash.
‘Nothing outside a person’. Jesus gives a common sense teaching that what is outside a person, including what they eat does not defile them.
‘Thus he declared all foods clean’. Believers in the Gospel can no longer impose the food restrictions in the law of Moses on people. Jesus has abrogated these commands. Note also Jesus undermined Sabbath observance (Mk 2.23-28).
20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mk 7.20–23)
‘From within, out of the heart’. I’ve done a word study on the heart.
Evil can come out of our hearts as well as good.
“One fundamental assumption of Scripture is that the human heart is constantly open to influences from above and from below.
God would “lay hold of [human] hearts” (Eze 14.5), “incline hearts” to his truth and ways (Ps 119:36), “put into … hearts to carry out his purposes,” both for judgment and for salvation (Rev 17:17).
The alternative to divine “possession” is the demonic influence that can drag the heart down to utmost evil (Jn 13:2; Acts 5:3).
The same heart that can be “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9) can also become the shrine of divine love and the Spirit (Rom 5:5).” (Elwell, W.A. & Beitzel, B.J., 1988. Baker encyclopedia of the Bible, pp.939–940.)
‘Evil thoughts’. Jesus lists a series of defiling thoughts.
Do you think about sexual immortality, theft, and murder? Do you covet, deceive others or succumb to pride?
The implication is that his audience should resist thinking about these evil behaviours which can originate inside their hearts in the same way they were mindful of the unclean elements outside them.
Purity is a serious issue because uncleanness belongs to the realm of death and breaks fellowship with God. By teaching what really defiles a person, Jesus better defines what breaks fellowship with God.
Unclean people need to be washed clean.
24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.
25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. (Mk 7.24–30)
I’ve posted on the same story in Matthew.
‘Daughter had an unclean spirit’, ‘the woman was a Gentile’. After teaching about evil thoughts which can come from the heart that defile a person. Jesus casts out an unclean spirit (demon) through the bold and persistent faith of a Gentile woman.
The good news here is that Jesus can make unclean people clean.
Jesus’ teaching about evil thoughts and defilement serve as a sobering reminder of the evil which can come from inside all of us. We need to take the issue of inner purity seriously and consider our habitual thought patterns.
There are times when we should ask God for forgiveness and cleansing.
Here are some reassuring passages which affirm Jesus does make people clean. Those who repent and believe are clean before God.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn 1.9)
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 10.19-22)
15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (Acts 10.15)
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.